Monday, November 5, 2018

900 days of Duolingo


duo status 181105

I happened to notice today that my Duolingo app shows a 900 days streak.

Tracing my digital footsteps back to when I got started… yes, it adds up! Smile

160517 start duolingo

It was through fellow blogger Janet that I first learned about the app. (The screen shot above is of a comment of mine on her blog.)

Although I got started on a whim, just to check it out –2½ years later, here I am still, doing at least one lesson of Spanish per day (often more). I have also gradually kept adding more languages to the list. (Something that would certainly never have happened without the convenience of a smartphone app).

The app has gone through some development since I started: for one thing they’ve skipped the original % “fluency” levels, which weren’t very accurate anyway. Further changes in how to level up vs keep up one’s skills have been a bit confusing (and much debated on the app forums) - but I decided not to be too bothered about that, but just keep going. (Have to admit I was relieved when “test out” options were re-introduced again, though – offering the possibility to skip too many boring repetitions of things one already knows.)

The statistics say very little about one’s actual skills; they really only show how much one has used the app for each language.  (Alas they also don’t show when one added each individual language.) A comparison some months apart shows that I have kept practising, though!

15 April 2018

Duo 180415 

5 November 2018:

Duo 181105

Next to Swedish and English, my third best language is really German; which I studied at university back in the 1980s. I’ve only been using the Duo app to check and freshen up my skills and vocabulary.

The need to freshen up old knowledge has been even more noticable with French; which I learned for five years in school back in my teens, but hardly used at all since then. I still have some “basics” stored in my memory, while other things have obviously withered away…

Norwegian and Danish are a lot like Swedish – we usually manage to understand each other tolerably well, each keeping to their own language (especially Swedes and Norwegians). I’ve just been using Duolingo to increase my understanding of the differences.

Dutch comes across to me as a mix of German, Scandinavian and English. With Duolingo I’ve now learned enough “basics” to read it a little. (Reading Het Achterhuis, The Diary of Anne Frank, in Dutch on my Kindle – now and then, and with my old Swedish paperback copy at hand for comparison.) If I try to speak/write it (outside of Duo exercises) my brain seems to automatically switch to German, though. And I’d probably better leave it a that! ;-)

Spanish is the language I’ve put the most effort into on Duolingo, learning it “from scratch”. Actually rather proud of my progress; even if I know from watching Spanish TV series on Netflix that they speak way far too fast for me, and I’m still totally lost without Swedish subtitles…

Turkish I decided to try because I was curious to see what it was like to learn a language with very different grammar - but without the extra trouble of a totally different alphabet. Similar reasons with Welsh, which I’ve been about to give up on any number of times. But somehow, with both these I still find myself struggling on, one lesson at a time, without even feeling really sure why – except that it’s a challenge, kind of like crosswords! And something like that also with Russian, where even just the alphabet still feels like a challenge. (I’m pretty sure I’ll never be reading the great Russian classics in the original language…)

Swahili (African language using “our” alphabet) I only recently had a peek at, not sure yet if I’ll continue at all… Just a bit curious to get some idea of how it compares to the other languages I’ve tried!


  1. I did use Duolingo a bit to see what it was like but I've not devoted proper time to it. I am filled with admiration for your tenacity and ability.

    1. Graham, I'm rather surprised myself that I've stuck to it! (But, come to think of it, it was kind of the same thing with blogging. A penpal of mine started a blog, and originally I created a blogger profile just to be able to comment on hers... Then I got curious to explore how it all worked... and now I've been blogging for nearly ten years!)

  2. Replies
    1. Sandy, I'm fairly fluent in German (don't think anyone would take me for a native, though!), and I suppose I'd probably get by on "tourist level" in French, and maybe Spanish. As for the rest... A few phrases, but if I should happen to be able to ask someone a question, it's still very unlikely that I'd be able to understand their reply!!!

  3. Haven't used it in a while though I like it when I do. Just Spanish and German though.

    1. Janet, if one wants to learn a language "properly", it's probably better not to take on too many at a time...! ;)

  4. All I can say is, you have a truly GENIUS brain for languages. For most people it is very hard to even learn one other language. And how you can keep them all separate is beyond me!!

    1. Ginny, it's really beyond me as well! One thing I've learned by a closer look at some different languages is that the risk of mixing things up is higher with those languages that have "too" much in common, though. (Like German and Dutch, or Danish and Norwegian.)

  5. I have never used an app for languages but it certainly sounds like a great idea, and as I have, like you, a love and talent for them, maybe I should check this out.
    What surprises me is that you have not (yet?) added Italian to your list. With your knowledge of Spanish, French and English, it will come very easy to you - at least that is how it worked for me when I was part of a Sicilian family for about 10 years during my first marriage :-)

    1. Meike, the reason I have not (yet?) added Italian to my list is that I fear it would mess up my Spanish - which really isn't all that 'stable' yet (especially the grammar). I hesitated about Dutch for the same reason (that it might interfere with my German). But my foundation in German is a lot stronger than in Spanish. As I said in the post though, I've decided to be satisfied with passive understanding of Dutch rather than trying to take it much further (except what's needed to do the Duo exercises). It really is harder to keep apart languages that are too much alike; especially when one is not getting "immersed" in the language (like I suppose you did while being part of the Sicilian family). For now, I think the challenge of keeping apart Spanish and French is enough (the grammar different enough between them not to get mixed up too easily, I think - but I do sometimes mix up certain words). But if I keep at it long enough - who knows! :)

  6. I had no idea it has been this long since you started this. I tried it but gave up on day 3 with the Spanish, which is what would be nice since a very large part of our population speaks Spanish. no brain for it. now when you read books you will know the words they use sprinkled in with English. you are amazing and have a gift for launguage

    1. Time is a mystery in itself - sometimes a certain point in the past may seem both close and very distant at the same time :) I think I can definitely say that three days is not enough time to get a grasp of any language, though! - For me, using this language app often feels quite relaxing, though - just like some people enjoy various kinds of games. And I definitely get more out of this than I ever did from Candy Crush! (which I tried for a while, years ago, but soon got tired of)


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